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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » Captured by Apes » CHAPTER XVII. INCONVENIENT MEMORIES.
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CHAPTER XVII. INCONVENIENT MEMORIES.
Up to this time those of the apes who had once been articles of merchandise in Philip Garland’s establishment gave no signs of remembering their past treatment, and he congratulated himself, even amid his troubles, that they did not take it into their apish heads to put him through the same course of training as he formerly practiced.

This lack of memory was only temporary, however, as he soon had the best of reasons to know, and never did a man repent more bitterly his attempts at animal-training than Philip on this eventful evening, while his long-tailed hosts were indulging in the gayeties of a ball.

The sport was at its height. The partially-clad apes were whirling around the room, evidently enjoying the dance as much as ever their masters and mistresses did; and Philip stood in one corner, hidden by the throng, watching for an opportunity to make his escape through one of the half-opened windows leading to the front veranda. He believed the apes had for the time being forgotten him, but in this he made a sad mistake.

Suddenly a large monkey, who had formed a part[135] of the collection sold to Captain Seaworth’s officers, came close to his old master. Philip recognized him as one whom he had taught, after much labor and many blows, to play the banjo, and from the expression of the animal’s face he understood that further trouble for himself was near at hand.

The monkey scanned him so long and intently that half a score of the dancers ceased their sport and gathered around, full of curiosity to learn what was to be done with this specimen of the human tribe.

It was as if the animal had tried to attract the attention of his comrades. When there was a sufficient number around to prevent any possibility of the animal-trainer’s escape, the monkey went to that portion of the room where one of the banjos was hanging, and, taking down the instrument, thrust it into Philip’s hands as he uttered a hoarse cry in a commanding voice.

At this moment the other members of the company who had formerly belonged to Philip’s establishment gathered around in high glee, and there could be no mistake as to their intentions. As the animal-trainer had taught his articles of merchandise, so now they were going to teach him, and the lesson would unquestionably be painful as well as humiliating.

For an instant Philip’s pride prevented him from playing the part of musician to the monkey-dancers, and he shook his head as if to say it was impossible. Almost at the same moment he regretted having refused,[136] for the monkey immediately struck him across the face with the instrument, dealing such a blow as sent the unfortunate captive staggering back against the wall.

Again was the punishment about to be repeated, but before the blow could be delivered Philip suddenly remembered how to play, and, swallowing his pride as best he could, took the banjo, running his fingers lightly across the strings.

At this new phase in the game of monkey-turned-trainer Goliah joined the party, and his memory proved to be even more perfect than that of the others.

It had been Philip’s greatest achievement in the education of these animals to form a trio, each ape performing on a different instrument; and in order that the picture should be correct, Goliah called two of those who were playing for the dancers to range themselves on either side of his late master.

Thus behold the youth whose proudest boast had been that he could train any animal, however ferocious, seated between two enormous baboons, strumming on a banjo as if his very life depended upon the amount of noise produced.

It is not necessary to say that this was no enjoyment to him; but it certainly was to the remainder of the party, and they grinned and chattered their approbation of the scene, while the one who had first started the sport stood directly behind the musician, armed with a long stick.

The unfortunate captive jangled the strings without[137] regard to harmony, and fondly fancied that this was the lowest humiliation he would be forced to bear. But his genial captors had a different opinion regarding the matter.

One of the party whom Philip had taught to climb a pole now seemed to enter into conversation with Goliah—who shall say that apes cannot talk?—and a few moments later he and two others left the apartment.

Philip was playing industriously to save his back from the shower of blows which descended at the slightest diminution of noise, when the three animals returned with a long, stout pole, and the musician dropped his instrument, literally dazed with fear and bewilderment, for now he understood what further sport he would be expected to make for the entertainment of this long-tailed party.

Was he to be called upon to perform every trick which had been taught in his emporium of wild animals? If such should prove to be the case, three days would hardly suffice in which to display all the varied accomplishments he had prided himself upon teaching, and in that time his exertions might prove fatal.

Cold streams of perspiration ran down his face, although the ball-room was far from being warm, at the bare idea of the brutish part he was called upon to perform.

The pole was there, however, and Goliah’s two old counselors stood close behind the prisoner, armed with long, pliant bamboos. Philip understood[138] only too well the purpose for which these whip-like sticks had been brought.

There was no mistaking the gestures with which they commanded the prisoner to climb the pole, and from the ingenious way of keeping it upright one would have fancied they had often performed the same feat for their own amusement.

Five or six of the smaller apes seated themselves on the floor, holding the pole at the base. Those of intermediate height grasped it with their hands a few inches from the bottom; while the tallest—which were the baboons and mandrills—threw their gigantic arms above the others, and planted their feet as props beyond the lower class.

Goliah advanced toward the captive with an imperious air as he pointed to the pole and then to the sticks held by the aged apes. Philip understood that it would not be wise to hesitate much longer. In fact he received an immediate and decided incentive to obey.

Just as he was balancing himself preparatory to swinging over the living pedestal, one of Goliah’s advisers struck him two severe blows, which had the desired effect.

Enraged, but yet fully realizing the danger of allowing his anger to display itself, he leaped forward and commenced climbing.

Although he may have been a thoroughly good teacher, it was not possible for him to practice gracefully that which he taught; and despite his most frantic efforts to ascend beyond reach of the bamboo[139] poles which the old apes kept constantly in motion, he could not succeed in climbing more than a few feet above the heads of those who held the pole. He would clamber up five or six inches, only to slip back the same distance, or further, and all the while the lower portion of his body was a fair target for his tormentors.

He now deeply regretted ever having attempted to train a monkey to climb a pole, and still more bitter were his regrets that he had used for this purpose a stout whip with which to belabor his pupils exactly as they were now belaboring him.

The sport of dancing was entirely forgotten in this new amusement, and each member of the party seemed to think it the height of pleasure to aid Goliah’s counselors in their efforts to make matters lively for the animal-trainer.

He climbed and slipped back, raising himself as the blows grew more furious, and then, despite all efforts, fell on the heads of those who were holding the instrument of torture. His trousers and coat were torn almost to tatters, and his skin scratched and bleeding. He was literally in rags before a quarter of an hour had elapsed, and so thoroughly exhausted as to be on the point of rebelling, regardless of the severe punishment which would inevitably follow, when a lucky accident put an end to this form of misery.

Under the incentive of blows more severe than the preceding ones, he leaped upward and at the same time sideways, grasping the pole higher than[140] before. By this means his weight was thrown at an angle, and the timber gave way in the middle.

The most comical antics of a clown in a circus would not have called forth such applause as that which greeted Philip when he fell bruised and bleeding upon the floor, while the entire company, even those who were clad in the greatest profusion of fineries, had a jolly game of leap-frog over his prostrate body.

For a moment he fancied this signal failure would cause his tormentors to relinquish the one-sided sport; but he forgot that among the animals sold to Captain Seaworth was his most accomplished pupil, who was now burning with a desire to do his share toward training the teacher.

Philip had remained as he fell, with his face buried in his arms to shield it from blows, when a vicious switch across the back caused him to look up.

He saw before him his talented pupil, for whom he had received an extra price because of the proficiency gained, comically scratching his thigh, capering in the air, thrusting his tongue out in a mocking fashion, and then whirling about on his head with both feet spread apart like a bent fork. In fact this extremely lively animal was repeating all the grimaces and contortions which had been instilled into his memory with so many blows of the whip.

This part of the monkey’s performance was evidently for the benefit of the spectators as well as Philip. He continued it several moments, and then, bowing as he had been taught to do when receiving[141] applause, stood still, making the most imperative gestures to the prostrate youth.

Philip had climbed the pole because of the blows he had received, and also because such a feat was, to a certain degree, within his power; but to stand on his head and whirl around like a live teetotum was impossible. He covered his face with his arms and remained motionless.

This immobility did not continue but a few seconds, for a hoarse scream from Goliah caused half a dozen of the apes to beat his body as if it had been a drum, until, knowing he would be pounded to a jelly should he continue to disobey, he arose to his feet like one who had already tasted the horrors of the whipping-post.



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